This book describes the development of her passion for farming, and first her relationship and then marriage with Mark, who is a somewhat crazy hippie-like man. She is brutally honest, funny, and writes eloquently about everything from her mom's appalled face when Mark shows up with a newly slaughtered turkey in a plastic bag (with the neck hanging out) at their first Thanksgiving, to the feeling of warm, good soil that is just waiting for the spade and shovels and plows.
They move away from New York, trying to find some land to farm organically and 'completely', in the sense that they want to be a self-sustained farm that produces everything a family might need year round: grain, sugar (maple syrup and honey), vegetables, milk (and cheese and yogurt), pork, chicken and eggs, beef, sheep for lamb, and so on. That is a lot complex than to farm just one thing (milk cows or corn for example), but also much more rewarding.
They find some land they are allowed to lease in upper New York State and start Essex Farm. Mark is a true back-to-old-times person, hating any kind of plastic and waste of resources. They decide to try to do as little as possible with tractors and instead they buy two draft horses, which will help them to plow and weed and transport manure and maple syrup buckets around, you name it. There is a great interview with Kimball here.
The first year they work all the time, live on nearly nothing except on what they can grow and are worried because they are not sure that the neighbors are willing to become members and get everything they need from the farm instead of from the regular grocery store. But, if you build it they will come. The neighbors, many of them retired farmers from farms that now are abandoned, help them out with sage advice, ancient rusty but important draft horse equipment from old barns, and a hand here and there when needed. And they start to sign up as members to get part of what is produced at the farm.
Today, 7 years later, the farm has over 100 members and is thriving. Kristin Kimball wrote her book on early mornings between 4 and 7 in the fire station, before her daughter woke up and the work at the farm started. I really loved this book, and read it faster than most because it captures you. Not only is the story both compelling (and sometimes disgusting) and interesting, Kimball's way with words is beautiful, often poetic. But mixed with a great sense of humor - she never takes herself too seriously, but she also can be very serious at times.
I am not ready to become a farmer with draft horses after this book, but I sure would love to have a farm like this close-by to get great, real, local, handmade food from. I am so glad Kimball wrote this book because I hope it will inspire both young people to become farmers and conscious eaters and 'cookers', as well as all of us to think about what it is that we really need in our lives. Flat screen TVs and the latest world news don't seem that important after you have read this book. A bunch of hay and a sunset and a well-cooked meal is more real. So, read it. It is one of the top ten books I have read in 5 years, and I mean it. So, grade A+, 5, or *****.
[Disclosure: I did not get paid to say anything of this. :) Better put this in here so I am not like those corrupt and greedy economy professors in the movie Inside Job, which I recommend the whole world to see, but more on that later.]
About preparing bull testicles for dinner after a slaughter: